Reports from the Field: Nicaragua
I’m in the younger kids’ house, just having seen Sandra. The Director of the young children’s project and one of the three executive members of the organization, the first time I met her I sensed a distance from her and what I perceived to be coldness. This changed during the second trip and was gone altogether when we reunited for our third time. We hugged and kissed hello. She was her usual refined and articulate self, softly poking fun at me over how drenched with sweat I was. I laughed and told her how embarrassed this made me and how the locals never seem to sweat in the unforgivable humidity of coastal Nicaragua. She smiled and went to bring me a cup of coffee.
As I was waiting for her and Magno to start our meeting, I noticed a couple of younger boys playing in the room I was sitting in. Silly and all over the place, they rolled around on the floor, laughed, and played with their multiplication tables. The moment was a sweet one so I took out my camera and asked if I could take their photo. This egged them on, as tends to be the case, and they came close to me. One smiled shyly, the other got in my face. “Dejame tomar tu foto!!” he said, his eyes twinkling, asking me to let him to use my camera to take my photo. I laughed and said the camera was really heavy and difficult to use, so better that I take their photo. He smiled and obliged, looking me straight in the eyes. “Como te llamas, amor?”, I asked his name. “Fernando!”
I learned more about Fernando from Sandra and much more from his teachers. A boy of 6, he lives with his grandmother- a cruel, older woman with no formal education, who constantly yells at him and says he’ll be like “his father” when he grows up. His father, jailed for the next 20 years for committing murder, and his mother, jailed for drug smuggling and prostitution, are not part of Fernando’s life and haven’t been for a long time. Though I didn’t notice it immediately, there is a deep gash on the left side of his forehead, a wound that the teachers at LT don’t know the origin of. All they know is that he came to the project house from school two weeks ago, bleeding from the head and with a swollen face and black eye. The teachers, having experienced his violent side (one of them hit on the face recently), say he frequently needs to be separated from other kids. When they took him home two weeks ago to make sure his grandmother was able to care for his wounds, the first thing she did upon seeing him was scream “What did you do now??”
Sadly, Fernando’s story is not uncommon among the kids at ‘the project’. Experiencing no love and support at home, and regular indifference as to whether he goes to school or not, Fernando’s only real caretakers and support network are his educators at LT. They visit his household regularly to evaluate the existing circumstances, meet with his teachers, and pull him aside to calm him down and occupy him when he becomes angry. When the moment of violence passes, Fernando is the six year old that I met that day- laughing and full of energy, his eyes big and shining, excited to make a new friend, play, and pose for the camera.